By: Adeboye Ado
Barely a year after gunmen struck at St. Francis Catholic Church in Owo, Ondo State, killing atleast 40 worshippers with several others injured, the church has been reopened for easter service.
Amidst tight security, men of the Nigeria Police Force, Military personnel, Hunters and the security arm of the church code named Men of Order and Discipline (MOD), were drafted to strategic places to secure the environment.
As the first service holds today after the bloody attack which occasioned national sympathy, the church was filled to the brim with worshippers who wore mournful look for losing their loved ones.
Recall that gunmen had on June 5, 2022, stormed the church during its Sunday mass and killed 40 worshippers, injured others who were later rushed to different hospitals for treatments.
Addressing the congregation on Sunday, the Catholic Bishop of Ondo Diocese, Bishop Jude Arogundade, lamented over the inability of the Government to nip incessant crimes and criminality bedeviling the country in the bud.
Arogundade who expressed dismay over the attack on the church last year, adjudged that government had failed in its core responsibility to protect lives and properties, adding it also failed to apologized to Nigerians over the unprovoked attack which claimed lives and injured unsuspecting worshippers.
He said, “We have to call ourselves back to the greater understanding of what is happening in our society today. I have never seen a nation so comfortable watching the killings of its citizens on daily basis in hundreds and nothing has been done for the past 15years.
“It doesn’t happen in other places I don’t know why the Govt. refuse to apologize to the citizens they failed. A government which failed or cannot protect its citizens is not worthy to be called a government.
“I wish to say this without fear of anyone that the government of this country has failed us and you press men should record me very well, they have failed in the area of protecting the lives and properties of the people.
“Almost on daily basis we hear people being killed in their tens and hundreds, many people have even forgotten what happened in this church ten years ago, because many more have happened without the world paying attention.
“The government must wake up and show strength and courage and make sure those who carried out the evil attack that took place in this church and the evil going around our country are brought to book and punished accordingly.
The Bishop who wondered why no one has ever been sentenced for committing heinous crimes troubling country, urged the perpetrators to allow peace to reign.
However, he urged the leaders piloting the affairs of the country to frontally tackle bloodletting killings, kidnapping, banditry and other misdemeanors.
Meanwhile, one of the survivors of the attack and the Local Government Chairman of Akoko South West Local Government Area, Hon. Augustine Oloruntogbe, described the killings as an unfortunate incident that would remain evergreen in the memories of other survivors.
Oloruntogbe who was the only government functionary inside the church at the time the incident happened, appreciated the timely efforts of Gov. Oluwarotimi Akeredolu and other well meaning Nigerians who were helpful to the injured and families of the deceased after the attack.
Recounting her grueling experience, another survivor, Margret Attah, who lost her two legs to the incident expressed sadness over the spate of Insecurity in the country, saying that the government needs to up its game in order protect innocent citizens.
Narrating the incident, she said “We were in the church we were about to end the service when we heard gunshots, at first we thought It was firework.
“But as the shooting continued everybody started running so the next thing I discovered was that my two legs were gone while one of my eyes was affected. I was part of those people rescued and later found myself in the hospital.
Attah who applauded the Ondo State government for providing two of children with scholarship, said the gesture went along way to cushion the harsh effects of the incident on her.
“I’m a nurse, if not for the efforts of the government I wouldn’t be able to cater for my children, but I thank God for my life, she said.
Faulting the alleged plan by the state government to immortalize the slain victims, Mrs. Monogbe Rita, said the idea was an act of cruelty, adding that many are still grappling with the pains of losing their families to the attack.
“My husband and two of my sister-in-law died during the attack and I later heard that the government wants to put their pictures in public, if it is true, the idea is bad and thoughtless. I will be in discomfort whenever I set my on the pictures of my husband and his two sisters.